Cannabis Light Schedules: Vegetative Stage vs Flowering Stage
Cannabis plants keep getting bigger and bigger with long days, and start making buds when you give them long nights.
Cannabis is a “photoperiod” plant, which means the amount of light received each day decides when the plant starts flowering or making buds. This article explains how much light a day your photoperiod cannabis plants need to grow and start budding, so you get to a happy harvest day. What about auto-flowering strains?
Vegetative – Seedling or clone leads to Vegetative Stage –
Give 18-24 hours of light a day
Flowering – Flowering (Budding) Stage leads to Harvest –
Give 12 hours light & 12 hours dark each day
Seedling or Clone
While not technically a “stage,” all grows start with cannabis seeds or clones.
Plant your seeds or clones when you’re ready to start growing! What are clones? https://www.growweedeasy.com/cloning
Some outdoor growers start their plants indoors to give them a headstart before putting plants outside.
If you’re growing cannabis outdoors with seeds, you should wait until a few weeks after the spring equinox to put your seeds outside. In the northern hemisphere this means seeds go outside in-or-after April, In the southern hemisphere seeds go outside in-or-after October.
For growers starting with cannabis clones, generally you should wait a few weeks longer than with seeds. Cannabis clones are more prone to flowering early outdoors than seeds, so you might want to put your clones out in late Spring or early Summer. (What are clones?)
If you live in a cold climate, you must also wait until after the last frost before putting your plants outside. Freezing temps will kill cannabis plants. Strain choice is very important. Some strains flower earlier than others. For outdoor growers in cold climates, it’s important to make sure you grow a strain that is matched up with your local weather, so that plants are ready for harvest before temperatures drop.
The vegetative stage is one of the most important parts of the life of your cannabis plant.
The vegetative stage is the growing stage of the plant. When in veg, cannabis plants grow bigger and taller, growing only stems and leaves. As a grower, you are able to control the size and shape of your plants in the vegetative stage using simple training methods.
During the entire vegetative stage the plant does not produce buds at all. It only grows stems and leaves. During the vegetative stage plants tend to grow very fast, especially when conditions are right.
What keeps cannabis in the vegetative stage?
Short nights keep cannabis plants in the vegetative stage. You can keep a cannabis plant in the vegetative stage for basically forever as long as the plant continues to get short nights (shorter than 1s-12 hours, depending on the strain).
Cannabis will stay in the vegetative stage as long as the plant gets short nights (less than 11-12 hours of darkness each day)
Whether you’re growing indoors or outdoors, you must make sure your cannabis plants get at least 13 hours of light each day to stay in the vegetative stage. If your plant gets a few long nights, it may start budding before you want.
The plant can receive as much as 24 hours of light a day while in the vegetative stage. Many indoor growers provide 18-24 hours of light a day (known as 18-6 or 24-0 light schedules) during the vegetative stage to encourage faster vegetative growth.
Don’t want to worry about light schedules? For growers that don’t want to pay attention to light schedules, there are auto-flowering strains of cannabis, which will automatically go through their whole life in about 3 months no matter what light schedule is provided. For some growers, an auto-flowering strain may be more simple than a traditional (photoperiod) strain.
Most indoor growers provide 18-24 hours of light a day (known as 18-6 or 24-0 light schedules). Giving your cannabis plants more hours of light each day in the flowering stage will encourage faster growth.
Lingo: When a grower provides 18 hours of light a day and 6 hours of darkness, this is commonly known as the 18/6 light schedule. For 24 hours a day, this is referred to as the 24-0 light schedule.
As long as your plant is getting plenty of light a day, your plant will automatically stay in the vegetative stage from late spring until late summer. Every strain is a bit different.
Cannabis starts budding when plants get at least 12 hours of uninterrupted darkness each night. After plants start budding, they must continue to get long dark nights until harvest or they may revert back to the vegetative stage.
Indoors most growers put their plants on a 12-12 schedule to initiate flowering. Outdoors the plant will naturally start budding in late summer when nights are growing longer and longer as winter approaches. Just make sure plants aren’t exposed to light during their dark period!
What is 12-12 Lighting?
The indoor grower will need to artificially induce flowering/budding in plants by changing the light schedule so the plant receives only 12 hours of light a day, and 12 hours of uninterrupted darkness.
Once the plant is changed over to the flowering (12/12) light schedule, there is generally another 6 weeks-5 months (average 2.5 months) before the plant’s buds are ready for harvest.
Outdoor growers wait until their cannabis plants start naturally flowering on their own, usually after mid-summer when days start getting shorter than 12 hours.
It’s important to make sure plants aren’t exposed to light at night during their dark period, even street lights or spotlights, as this can prevent cannabis plants from flowering properly.
Growing Indoors? Not Sure When To Switch To Flowering?
So indoor growers have a choice to flower their plants whenever they want… When is the best t ime to start flowering your cannabis indoors?
The real answer is that it’s a matter of personal preference and also depends on what end result you’re looking for. There are two major considerations when choosing the right time to switch to 12/12, the age of the plant and the height of the plant:
Age: Some growers feel that a marijuana plant which has been grown from seed will not produce as many buds or have enough resin production if the plant is not given at least 60 days in the vegetative stage to mature before it’s changed over to the flowering stage. This is not true. many growers initiate flowering soon after germinating a seed in order to keep plants small and short. This is often called “12-12 from seed.” Just remember, no matter what you do, a young cannabis plant will not start flowering until it is 2-3 weeks old. Even if you put a seed on a 12-12 schedule from the beginning, it will not start properly budding for about 3 weeks. When growing with cannabis clones, age is not an issue and growers can switch directly to flowering once your clone has established roots. This is because even though a clone may be small, it’s still a ‘mature’ plant since it is made of a piece from a mature plant. Rooted clones tend to grow much faster for the first few weeks than plants grown from seed. In any case, age is not much of an issue, and you should switch your light schedule at the time that best fits your needs.
Height: A general rule is that your marijuana plant will double or triple in size during the flowering stage from the point where you first change over the light schedule to 12/12. Some plants will grow more, some will grow less, but a good rule of thumb is to change your light schedule over to flowering when your plants have reached half of their final desired height. Bending, known as “LST” or “low stress training” can be used to control colas that get too tall. Simply bend too-tall colas down and away from the center of the plant. Some growers will even slightly break or “supercrop” branches to get them to bend at a 90 degree angle. For those growing in a small space, height may be the primary concern. However, there are many techniques available to grow a short, bushy weed plant or basically train your cannabis plant to grow into any shape you want.
Here’s an example of LST to keep a plant short:
In optimal conditions if height and space is not an issue, you would probably want to vegetate your cannabis plant for 60 days or more before switching it over to flowering. This gives your plant plenty of time to grow big (so you get bigger yields), and allows new growers to dial in their grow before plants enter the sensitive flowering stage. In the vegetative stage, it is easy to recover from problems, but problems are a lot more serious in the flowering stage, where mistakes can dramatically hurt your final yields.
Giving cannabis plants more time in the vegetative stage, and taking time to train them to fit your space, will give you the best final yields. However, if space is tight, then it’s better to switch when the plant is half the final desired height, or even to just attempt to flower your cannabis plant straight from seed.
After the vegetative and flowering stage are over, it is time to harvest your plants!
What do I need to know about light cycles and flowering my marijuana plants? Plants keep getting bigger and bigger with long days, and start making buds when you give them long nights.
How To Grow Cannabis From Seed Under 12-12 Lighting
Force flowering marijuana from seed can provide excellent quality, resinous flowers, all the while saving space, time, and money. For those with space constraints, it is a win-win!
Do you want to go from seed to bud quicker and cheaper? A faster, space saving and economical way to grow is the no veg, seed to flower, 12-12 light cycle method.
Growing with a 12-12 photoperiod is a solution to space and resource problems. This method eliminates the vegetation phase of growth and forces the plant to go straight into flower from a seedling. Yields are lower than that of a regularly grown cannabis plant, but results are obtained much faster, with a few advantages.
The 12-12 lighting technique makes the grow cycle 7-9 weeks in general, rather than the much longer time needed when giving plants a vegetative phase. For the space constrained, and those willing to experiment and give it ago, it can be a dream come true.
WHAT IS 12-12?
12-12 simply refers to the hours of light and darkness a cannabis plant is exposed to – 12 of each. Normally, a cannabis plant is exposed to an 18-6 light cycle. This tells the cannabis plant conditions are good for growth, and it focuses on building up size and foliage. When light cycle is changed to 12-12 (either naturally or through human intervention), it tells the cannabis the seasons are changing, and it is time to flower. By forcing a 12-12 light period from the start, the cannabis plant goes directly into flowering, in a bid to reproduce. You are essentially tricking the plant into thinking the growing season is coming to an end, so it needs to produce flowers ASAP.
Growing 12-12 is as simple as changing the timing on your light cycles, giving your plants equal amounts of day and night right from when they sprout. The plants will look different to a cannabis plant that goes through vegetative growth. Photosensitive hormones in cannabis make the highest point the largest cola. This method all but guarantees only main bud growth on every small plant. Essentially you will be growing a cola with a few short, budded side branches – with the plant basically being a bud in itself. Be sure to stake your plants.
Everything to which you would pay attention in a normal grow remains unchanged and are still just as important. pH and water quality, nutrient mixing, pest control, grow medium conditions, EC and ppm all still play their major roles in the dankness and weight of your finished product.
Growing this way still requires all the knowledge that would be needed to flower plants with any other method, and maintenance routines still remain unchanged. After diluted nutrients, while still young, treat your plants as you would during a normal bud cycle. However, flush more often, every ten days at most, so as to avoid salt build-up in the smaller pots.
Done with expert practice and a willing strain of cannabis seeds, it is not unknown to produce 1 gram of ganja per watt of lighting. That’s an impressive 250g in 7-9 weeks for a 250W light in a small cupboard!
- Lights have full penetration to the floor. Keep an eye on the soil wetness as lights will dry the medium quicker than if protected by a canopy
- This method is fast. 7-9 weeks on average
- Less drama trimming as there are far less sugar leaves to deal with
- Plants are easier to handle for maintenance
- Can grow in tiny areas
- Save wear and tear on moving components
- Save money
Plants with less side branching and canopy spread need less space between them, increasing efficiency. As an example: 1x 15-litre pot produces one plant with a large volume and difficult maintenance issues in a cramped space. 4x 3.5-litre pots in the same sized space can produce just as much dried material with the benefit of being easier to rotate, so the whole plant gets 360-degree light. The entire crop is less hassle during maintenance as each plant is 100% accessible and physically easier to move about. There is no need for a separate sprouting and veg space or time wasted on 18-6 vegetation. The seeds can be sprouted under the 12-12 growing lights providing continual flowering plants.
There is a lesser demand for resources across the boards.
You will experience only half the water consumption with less moisture loss due to evaporation, and a third less nutrients are used. CO₂ and electricity use including most peripherals are reduced by a staggering 650 grow hours annually.
Taking hours to accomplish, tipping, fimming, branch control, and mainlining are now unnecessary freeing up your most precious resource, time.
Always be sure to re-sterilize your grow space after each crop.
Keep a keen eye out for moulds and mildews as the grow space will be getting less light with more moulding opportunity in warm dark corners and creases.
There are some haters of this method, but many love it. Those who hate on it often have not actually tried it. It is all about giving it a go and seeing what works for you. Even if you decide against it after trying it, it all helps expand your knowledge as a grower.
Some sativas will still stretch to 1.2 metres using this method, so species selection right at the very start is key. Indicas are the obvious choice for maximum space saving. They are generally smaller, and 12-12 will keep them very manageable. You will enjoy small pots full of colas, like a miniature stinky forest. Buds grown this way are indistinguishable from vegetated plants in flavour and effects, and at the end of the day, getting buds in the jar quicker and more often is a good thing right?
How to force cannabis to flower from seed for quick, resinous yields using a 12-12 light cycle.